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Ofcom announces details of 2016 MOD spectrum auction

techUK’s Raj Sivalingam comments on Ofcom’s announcement of auction of MOD spectrum 2.3 GHz and 3.4 GHz in 2016.

Ofcom has yesterday confirmed plans for releasing valuable new airwaves that could be used to meet the growing demand for mobile broadband services.

An auction is planned to take place in early 2016 for the spectrum, which has been made available by the UK's Ministry of Defence as part of a wider Government initiative to free up public sector spectrum for civil uses.

A total of 190 MHz of high-capacity spectrum is being made available in two bands (2.3 GHz and 3.4 GHz) which are particularly suited for high-speed mobile broadband services, because they can carry large amounts of data. This is equivalent to around three-quarters of the spectrum released by Ofcom through the 4G auction in 2013.

Ofcom has also published details of the auction process and is setting reserve prices totalling £70m for the spectrum - there will not be a cap on the amounts bidders can buy. Ofcom believes that any cap could prevent a bidder from buying large blocks of adjacent spectrum. Large blocks have the potential to support very fast download speeds, meaning even faster mobile broadband for consumers, which helps pave the way for 5G.

Raj Sivalingam, techUK's Executive Director of Telecoms and Spectrum Policy Forum commented: "techUK supports the initiative taken in the UK to release underutilised public sector spectrum and specifically these spectrum bands for mobile broadband applications. At the same time, techUK also recognises the adjacency between the 2300-2400MHz band and licence-exempt services in the 2.4 GHz band in terms of the potential interference between the bands. However, the release of these new bands will contribute to the Digital Britain targets and being consistent with the wider European activities to harmonise their use across the EU and CEPT for mobile broadband applications, will be beneficial to UK consumers."

The auction is designed to be fair and transparent, enabling the spectrum to be awarded to those who can put it to the most efficient use in the best interests of consumers. Ofcom proposes to auction the spectrum in lots of 10 MHz for the 2.3 GHz band and 5 MHz for the 3.4 GHz band.

Many existing mobile handsets from major manufacturers, including the Apple iPhone 6, HTC Desire and Samsung Galaxy, are already compatible with the 2.3 GHz spectrum. The band is so far being used for high-speed 4G mobile broadband networks in ten countries outside Europe, including China, India and Australia.

The 3.4 GHz band is currently being used for 4G wireless broadband in six countries including the UK, Canada and Spain.

techUK's response to Ofcom's consultation on Public Sector Spectrum Release (PSSR): technical coexistence issues for the 2.3 and 3.4 GHz award is available here.

More information is also available about techUK's Communications Policy Council.


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